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City survey sinks notion of lowering city speed limit

The exploration of reducing the speed limit in Nelson across its road network was recently evaluated by city staff in a community consultation Thought Exchange — City of Nelson.


The slow speed movement is not catching on in Nelson.

The exploration of reducing the speed limit in Nelson across its road network was recently evaluated by city staff in a community consultation Thought Exchange, part of the Active Transportation Implementation Plan, and delivered to city council Tuesday night at its committee-of-the-whole meeting.

Although it was proposed to drop the city-wide speed limit from 40 kilometres per hour to 30 — research has shown that a pedestrian struck at 30 km/h has a 90 per cent chance of surviving — the majority of the 327 participating in the survey did not feel the same way.

Over half of the people (54 per cent) surveyed were not in favour of reducing the speed limit on the local streets to 30 km/h. Only one third (33 per cent) wanted the lower speed while 13 per cent were unsure.

“Some people are saying that 40 is plenty slow … but it’s more so about enforcing it,” said city senior planner Sebastien Arcand in his report to council.

“One of the things I was reading was, ‘it’s one thing to bring the speed limit down to 30 kilometres per hour, but are you actually going to be enforcing it?’”

The notion of a reduction of the speed limit in Nelson arose out of a national movement to reduce speed limits along local streets, with the cities of Vancouver, Surrey and Calgary recently piloting reduced speed limits in neighbourhoods.

“The idea of reducing speed limit was essentially to make the roads safer for all road users,” said Arcand in his report to council.

“Travel speeds are the main factor in how serious a crash will be and whether a crash occurs at all. The faster we travel, the less time we have to react to the unexpected. The risk of death and injury increases significantly as travel speeds increase.”

A pedestrian struck at 50 km/h only has a 15 per cent chance of surviving.

Coun Rik Logtenberg said it wasn’t about the actual speed limit that was the issue, but how people were thinking about the limit and their level of comfort with it.

“It’s about how far over the speed limit you are currently travelling,” he said.

However, both sides on the speed issue in the survey did agree on the theme of enforcement, enforcing people stopping at stop signs and stopping people from parking too close to stop signs. There was also a call for more “speed checks” at the current 40 km/h rate.

Having conclusive evidence against a lowering of the speed limit doesn’t mean there aren’t any other opportunities for improving the safety on city streets, including dropping the speed limit along designated active transportation corridors.

Another move was to create better and safer intersection treatments in known problematic areas, working within the sidewalk improvement budget to identify the locations and find solutions:

• line markings done earlier in the year;

• bump outs at busy intersections;

• no parking signs in proximity to intersection;

• better lighting; and

• pedestrian refuge.

Additional enforcement and speed reader boards were also proposed.

You’ve got the power

The BC Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) has outlined a statutory speed limit on all public roads of 50 km/h within municipalities and 80km/h outside municipalities.

Those basic speeds can be changed within the municipality through the establishment of a bylaw doing so.

Once a municipality lowers a speed limit all it has to do is post traffic signs to define the new speed limit throughout each area to inform drivers of the speed limit and to enable enforcement of speed related offences. 

Source: City of Nelson